As writers we are defined by our voices and our words — not our pretty site or amazing Instagram feed.
So, it’s important to find our unique voice that not only sounds like our true, writerly self, but can also be picked out by those if they saw a snippet of our writing in the dark.
Finding and nurturing your writerly voice is hard work and takes time, but once you find it and fine-tune it, it’s yours for good. It’ll grow and change as you do.
To get there all you need are these six handy tricks to help you find your writerly voice with love and grace:
It’s probably a no brainer, but as writers we imitate what we read. If we’re reading self-help non-fiction books while trying to write something that’s fiction, it’s going to bleed into our writing. It’s going to feel and sound choppy because we can’t get into the character with the same closeness as we had. The same can’t be said for non-fiction though. Fiction reading helps us be better story crafters. It helps us weave the magic in when it comes with an added slice of imagination. Go into your local library, peruse Amazon, raid your besties bookshelf, go into your local bookstore and pick a book by how pretty it looks. Read the blurb — if it calls to you, take it home and read it. Get lost in the story and then look at the language. How does the writer play around with it? What happens? This leads me into my next point:
Experiment with language
Metaphors, similes, metonyms — all words that every great writer should arm themselves with. They help you look for unique ways to express yourself. Using writing exercises that chop a word in half to find a new word or listening to sounds and playing on them to make new words makes writing fun. Exploration is your biggest weapon with language and finding new ways to define your voice is fun and challenging.
Punctuation is really important — it tells a reader when to pause. It tells a reader when the pace is about to change and it also gives a chance for readers to take a break. The importance with punctuation is all in the subtleties and when you’re not sure of what to use, go with the simplest of answers: the full stop (or period). You may think that this has nothing to do with finding your writerly voice, but it helps make your writing readable to those who come across it. Otherwise, there would be a lot of run on sentences that just went on for days.
Listen to the conversations around you
Sometimes, this is where we get our tone from the most. How are words pronounced? What’s the context? What’s its origins? It’s easy to think that writing is a strict pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard sort of thing, but it was originally an oral medium and sometimes figuring out the way that others speak or even how you speak, brings more life to your written words. Take the time to listen to the different conversations around you.
Writing on a screen or even in your journal or on your computer allows your brain to autocorrect mistakes so you never see them. Some of the best advice I was ever given as I was growing into my writerly voice, was to read my work out loud. You pick up on clunky sentences, passive tones and places where you’ve missed the mark with punctuation. Once you’ve finished that masterpiece, print it out and read it out loud. Yeah, you’ll cringe a little at first hearing your own voice but it gets easier to spot the places that you’ve slipped out of your voice and into something completely different. It’s in those moments that you can bring yourself back gently, edit it and sharpen the piece.
Listen with your third ear
Lastly, this baby is changing lives. It’s changed the way I look at my writing and changed my writerly voice. When you’re reading your own writing and writing as well, you need to listen between the lines, look between it and find what really lights it up. Where is it going? What are you trying say? Can you say it better? Clearer? Harsher? Truer? You have to come back to what is aligned with you. A closer reading will help you understand what you’re trying to get across and how to better it.
Finding your writerly voice is a journey and one that needs to be embraced with arms wide open.
It’s scary, but armed with these tricks you’ll be on your way to finding it in no time and feeling more at home and confident with your writing.
Mandi is a writer, writing practice coach, editor and copywriter empowering the writerly insides of those who choose to step into the spotlight.
She is breaking internal editors, sabotages and procrastinators to bring writing into the lives of everyday women and men to help them feel at home inside their haven created by a writing practice that empowers and motivates them to get more out of life and their writing.